He would mute the volume, stare at the basketball game on his
television screen and unleash a singsong commentary filled with
phrases like "courageous cagers dashing and flashing." Thus was
Walt Frazier, a Hall of Fame guard with the New York Knicks and
the Cleveland Cavaliers, reborn as a broadcast analyst and--to his
stunned surprise and many a vigilant viewer's delectable
delight--an inimitable wordsmith. "I always knew I'd have to
improve my vocabulary to be an effective announcer," said
Frazier, 56, before working a Knicks game last Thursday night for
the MSG Network. "So I'd practice announcing until the words
became second nature. Now, I think my alliteration and rhyme make
While such singularity hardly seems surprising from the man
whose flashy suits and wide-brimmed lids as a player inspired
New York center Nate Bowman to dub him Clyde (as in Bonnie
and...), Frazier was the ultimate team player. As with Oscar
Robertson before him and Magic Johnson after him, the 6'4"
Frazier was a triple threat, as likely to pass or crash the
boards as he was to shoot. A seven-time All-Star who averaged
18.9 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds and excelled at
defense during his 12-plus NBA seasons, he was at his best
during the Knicks' title runs, in 1970 and '73.
When his playing days ended in 1979, however, Frazier wanted
nothing to do with basketball or the sedentary life of an
ex-jock. He found the perfect escape: a ranch on St. Croix in the
Virgin Islands, where he grew his own food and sailed his beloved
trimaran, the Eula V, named for his mother. But an '87 interview
with Marv Albert on MSG led to a job doing commentary on Knicks
radio broadcasts, and Frazier, constantly working on his game,
became obsessed with the dictionary, reading it for hours, making
lists of words that "enthralled me," he says. "Riveting,
dazzling, suffocating--I loved the words, loved how they sounded.
Learning them and using them changed my life."
Frazier has morphed his love affair with the language into a
humorous quasidictionary for kids called Word Jam (Troll
Communications, $6.95), which he hopes will be "my enduring
legacy." When the last pass has been dished, the last shot
swished and the last defender sufficiently shaked and baked,
Frazier, who is single, will move (and groove) back to his seven
acres on St. Croix. There he will be a contented farmer, sailor
and erstwhile poet of the broadcast booth, and, as he puts it,
"my fans will then be the waves of the ocean, and my applause,
the roar of the sea."
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN
The alliterative announcer hopes his humorous dictionary for
kids, Word Jam, will be his legacy.